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- Serbian tennis player
Novak Djokovic faces an anxious wait to see if Australian authorities will allow him into the country following an argument over his vaccination status.
The Serbian tennis star is being detained at a quarantine hotel in Melbourne that has housed asylum seekers ahead of an appeal hearing on Monday after he challenged the decision of the Australian Border Force (ABF) to cancel his visa and deport him.
The 34-year-old had travelled Down Under after announcing he had received a medical exemption from COVID vaccination rules to compete in the Australian Open, which starts on 17 January.
However, the ABF said Djokovic “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia” and cancelled his visa.
Djokovic has not said why tournament organisers granted him a medical exemption. Officials had insisted all players must be vaccinated to travel and compete.
The world number one has previously shown concern and scepticism over vaccine mandates on the ATP Tour and fears that the side effects could affect his tennis.
It has been reported Djokovic had not applied for a visa that allows exemptions for unvaccinated people – here’s what he has previously said during the pandemic.
Watch: Djokovic detained in Australia as he fights deportation
'Personally I am opposed to vaccination...'
Djokovic has not publicised whether or not he has been vaccinated, but has previously said he is opposed to vaccination.
In April 2020, shortly after the pandemic began, Djokovic told a group of Serbian players on a Facebook Live chat that he was concerned about being able to travel in play if vaccines became mandatory.
He said: "Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.
"But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.
"I have my own thoughts about the matter, and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don't know.”
Djokovic added that he wanted to “choose what’s best for my body”, adding: "I am keeping an open mind, and I'll continue to research on this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.”
Additionally, he said he was “curious about wellbeing and how we can empower our metabolism to be in the best shape to defend against impostors like COVID”.
Against forced vaccination
After his comments in the Facebook chat were picked up, Djokovic told the New York Times that his remarks had been “taken out of context” and that he was not against vaccines.
However, he once again reaffirmed his stance of not wanting to be forced to take a vaccine, adding: "My issue here with vaccines is if someone is forcing me to put something in my body. That I don't want. For me that's unacceptable.
"I am not against vaccination of any kind, because who am I to speak about vaccines when there are people that have been in the field of medicine and saving lives around the world?”
‘Freedom of choice’
Djokovic said in May last year, when the vaccine programme was being rolled out across the globe, that he didn’t think tennis players would be forced to take the vaccine to play in tournaments – and insisted he would not disclose whether he would have the vaccine himself.
Speaking during the Serbia Open in May, Djokovic said: “I will keep the decision as to whether I'm going to get vaccinated or not to myself.
"It's an intimate decision, and I don't want to go into this game of pro and against vaccines, which the media is unfortunately creating these days.
"I don't want to be labelled as someone who is against or who is for vaccines. I'm not going to answer the question… and hope that everyone will respect that.”
In October 2021, Djokovic continued with his refusal to reveal whether he had received the vaccine or not.
Speaking to the Serbian Newspaper Blic, Djokovic said: “It is a private matter… That is an immoderate question. Too many people today allow themselves such freedom to ask things and condemn a person…
“The media has become… I have no words to describe it. It spreads fear and panic among people and I don’t want to participate in that rift. I feel that everyone is hostile. I don’t want to give them a reason to write some things about me.”
Watch: Novak Djokovic facing anxious wait over Australia visa appeal